Week of October 8, 2023 – October 14, 2023

Elizabeth Suzedell staff member and Environmental Educator

by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator

What was your favorite childhood memory outdoors? I remember having so much fun climbing the huge holly tree in the backyard (and pretending I lived in it), the excitement of discovering frogs in a stream near my house, building elaborate stick forts with the neighbors, and “cooking food” with my friend out of wood chips, rocks, and mud at recess every day. As I continue to recollect, I realize that these are some of my most fond memories- and they all have to do with nature play.

“Nature play” is really just “playing outside”, or playing by exploring, making discoveries, and having fun in the natural environment, preferably in an unstructured way. Even just a little bit of green space in a small backyard or the local park is enough for kids to let their curiosity, imagination, and creativity flow.

Access to nature provides children with endless health benefits. Kids are like sponges for information who live through their senses, and they learn so much about our world through their direct experiences in nature. Engaging in nature play helps children understand their own and others emotions, build self confidence and risk assessment skills, and boost their physical fitness.

I am constantly observing and helping kids to connect with nature- through our field trips from Syracuse and other local schools, homeschool programs, and Nature Day Camps. Nature gives them invaluable experiences that no classroom or screen can provide. Those kids have taught me that playing outside never gets old, and that connections to nature are essential to all of us. Whether it’s a walk in the park, camping in the forest, or investigating who’s living in the leaf litter of your backyard, I encourage you to get outside and play for the child within you, or with the children in your life.

You can check out past editions of the Naturalist Blog in the archives – including last week’s edition that talks about the importance of Direct Experiences in nature.